Office Politics – strategies people use to achieve personal advantage — are a fact of life. Some are “good” and some are “bad”.
When thought of as “bad” office politics, reference is to the tactics people use for their advantage at the expense of others, adversely affecting the work environment and relationships. “Good” office politics help you promote yourself.
You may hate them, but like it or not, you need to learn to handle office politics well to ensure your career success. If you refuse to deal with the ‘bad politics’ churning around you, your career may suffer as others take unfair advantage. If you avoid practicing ‘good politics’, you may miss opportunities to promote and advance your career.
Office politics may be compared to navigating a minefield. To deal with them effectively, you must accept the reality that they exist and then develop tactics to deal with them. The “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” approach is best. Here are some tips to help you survive:
Disregard Biased Comments. Negative feelings about a co-worker often result from something another co-worker says. Don’t pay attention to biased comments. Instead, get to know your co-workers and form your own opinions. Once you know someone well and understand what motivates them, you may find they’re not so bad after all.
Don’t hold a grudge. Anger toward a co-worker only serves to adversely affect your work. Instead of bottling up your anger and risking an emotional explosion, take steps to diffuse the crisis regardless of who may be at fault. Once the problem is resolved let go of your anger — treat the problem as history and move on.
Observe your co-workers. It’s always helpful to know where other people stand. Take some time to observe your co-workers and assess their political power. Who are the real influencers? Are there groups or cliques? Who gets along with whom? Who are the chronic complainers and crisis seekers?
Build relationships that with peers as well as bosses. Be part of multiple networks so you can keep your finger on the pulse of the firm. Get to know politically powerful people in the firm or company. Build relationships with them but never fear them. Be friendly with everyone but don’t align yourself with one group or another.
Treat everyone with respect and kindness. No matter how upset you are about something or how upset you are with a co-worker or client, keep your comments to yourself, put on a smile and greet them warmly.
Avoid joining with voices that criticize your boss, the firm or the company. Never complain to a client or anyone outside the firm about internal conflicts. This only sheds a bad light on everyone, especially you.
Don’t be boastful. Co-workers perceive you as bragging, you may have a label you don’t want. It’s best to let your work speak for itself or let somebody else do the bragging for you. Of course, it does no harm to point out to your boss what you have contributed and achieved beyond the call of duty. If you make a mistake, admit it and fix it…don’t blame it on someone else.
Beware – ultimatums may be very dangerous. Before you rush to a manager and lay down an ultimatum, consider what the results might be. If you get someone fired, you may pay a steep price with your co-workers. If you are ignored and nothing is done, you are no further ahead and you’ve made it known that you are so unhappy you’re ready to leave the firm. When and if you decide to take your problems to a manager, always be able to offer constructive solutions.
Concentrate on your work. Be the best at what you do, no matter the size of the job, and always leave your mark of excellence on your work. Be punctual, meet deadlines and follow the rules (written or unwritten) of the firm or company. Become an expert (the go-to person) in at least one area. Watch for trends in the industry. Always be learning new systems and software.
You may have to make a change. If the chaos of office politics becomes too difficult to handle, you may have to request a transfer or decide that another job is the best route for you. Do not wait until you are completely broken down to do this. Know the danger signs and when it’s time to quit. If at all possible, land the new job before letting go of the current one.
There’s a saying that you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. This certainly applies to office politics. Always weigh your options. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Be patient. Be open to new opportunities.
When you learn to deal with office politics, you will regain your self-confidence and enjoy your work more. You’re a winner!
© 2011 Vicki Voisin, Inc.
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Vicki Voisin, “The Paralegal Mentor”, delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a Paralegal Strategies, a weekly enewsletter for paralegals and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.
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